By Jono Coote
“Out of all the parks I’ve built, I thought Inverness - when Div broke his jaw and Steve broke his collarbone, and it was basically me and Chris sitting there on a Monday with a third of the park built, two thirds of the way through the contract - that if we could get through that, we could get through anything. But Leeds has certainly put me through my paces.”
Concreate Skateparks are reaching the end of their artistic residency in Horsforth Hall Park; an extended one due to pitfalls and setbacks littering the path to the skatepark’s completion.In the midst of the pack down for the next job and as the dust has begun to settle from the skate session which took place earlier in the evening, Concreate Skateparks owner Iain Young reclines in his van and sips on a beer to help ease the litany of misfortune tripping off of his tongue.
Tetanus is just a state of mind; Youngo practices rebar avoidance by way of a slob plant fakie. Ph: Jono Coote
Horsforth is not the sort of area you would expect to be in line for a high quality skatepark; the kind which draws visitors, incites heavy sessions and nurtures a new generation of feral lunatics huffing Salba Sauce and eating concrete dust. This quiet suburb of Leeds, peopled by octogenarians and those looking for a more sedate day to day existence than the student-infused mayhem of Hyde Park or Headingley, is traditionally a soil which encourages the building of bowls clubs and afternoon tea shops more than intimidatingly gnarly holes in the ground.
A skatepark with a focus on big transitions is what the Leeds skate scene, so vibrant in other areas, has required for a long time - one look at the flourishing community at Thornes Skatepark down the road in Wakefield, or a quick roll call of the members of the city’s skate community with an affinity for backside bonelesses, will attest to that. Its appearance in one of the more affluent suburbs of the urban sprawl which connects Bradford to Leeds was as unexpected as it was welcome when the news filtered through the World Wide Web all the way to my share house in the depths of Melbourne’s Northern Suburbs last year, and probably played no small part in the decision to move back to Yorkshire when Visa expiration sent me trundling back to the UK.
“I’d heard talk of it for years; Joe (Howard) had mentioned it to me, Middle Aged Shred dudes had spoken about it, then Simon, the architect involved, contacted me. We were actually getting ready to start a big job elsewhere; a kind of sculpture park, it looked really exciting and interesting, but that ended up not happening. They’d tendered it I think, another contractor had it but then said that they couldn’t build it for the money. At the time Simon got in touch we were fortunate enough to be free from work, and we put a price in that was attractive to the council...and here we are, basically.”
I’d been trying to do this interview for some time and, after numerous attempts were waylaid by our combined tendencies to be distracted by the physical act of skateboarding itself, we finally got around to talking about the park - but, really, we’d been talking about it non stop for six months, in amongst the skating, the beers in the sun and a discussion encompassing concrete finishing techniques, skateboarding, the most underrated moments on AC/DC’s Powerage, Blaze Blouin, Livi, the differences between marrows and courgettes, Buster Halterman, Stockwell, the birth of human consciousness, correct backside air form and more. From a basic plan involving a snake run and kidney bowl, things quickly started snowballing once some of the stranger ideas had been culled;
“There were certain classic elements Simon wanted; a transitioned flatbank, the kidney, the snake run, some kind of pinnacle feature; then it was this bizarre set of ideas from six years worth of user groups, pump tracks to curved ledges, it was madness. We thinned out some of those, then aside from those key features the rest was left to artistic license.”
One of those moments of 'artistic license' - Yorkshire stone sub box three feet above seven.
With the focus usually on the people on site when it comes to skatepark building, Simon has clearly been a major part of helping this project come to fruition and Youngo is quick to heap praise on those who work behind the scenes to bring proper skateparks to their suburb;
“Hats off to him, he’s been wanting to make this happen for years. He’s got a vision to get good skateparks built in Leeds because he’s sick of seeing, you know, massive wastes of money. He’s probably taken some stick for it over the years, but thankfully he stuck with it.”
A constant throughout the evenings spent on site, quality testing the transitions - adrenaline and endorphins under grapefruit hued sunsets redolent with the promise of long summer days to come - has been the sight of intrigued pedestrians peering through the fences. The energy levels create a subconscious thrum beyond the clatter of boards and wheels which seems to act as a beacon; molecules in motion creating a chain reaction, an ebb and flow which catches the curious in its tides.
Stu Christie and Youngo perfecting their doubles routine with the treacherous "Two men one stalefish". 10/10. Ph: Jono Coote
Despite the slow headache brought on by regularly having to answer “Are you going to graffiti it all once the concrete is finished?”, the genuine excitement by non-skating locals is a happy turnaround from the abuse, bemusement and outright wrath incurred by a group of adults using a skatepark in previous years.
“It’s got more than the local skaters excited too - older people who’ve never been interested in something like this coming up to the fences, asking how we’re doing it all, the feedback has been 99.9% positive.”
Sprawling across the edge of the park closest to the ring road, hemmed in by pine trees, it is within spitting distance of the cricket pitch; close enough for an unwary use to take a ball to the head. The plus side is that having Horsforth Cricket Club as a neighbour also opens up potential for events between the park and bar, especially with it being a licensed music venue.
“I mean I can’t think of anything better to be next to my brand new skatepark than a licensed bar and music venue, to be honest with you. It’s fucking amazing - Rob, the guy that runs it is super cool and he’s hyped because at the end of the day it’s money through their doors as well. How often do you get that, a fucking gig venue next to the skatepark? It’s happened when we’ve been working here; 100, 150 people out on the field. LS10 are doing stuff with them and they’re really keen to build it back to a busy, bustling space.”
Lien air high above both concrete and cricket club, howzat? Ph: Jono Coote
Of course, it may be some time before events can occur; fast forward six months from those first images on social media piquing my interest and a global pandemic, the widespread curbing of social interaction and other such paroxysms incited by the orgiastic death throes of late 20th century capitalism have seen a few minor hiccups in the road to Horsforth’s permanent stoke zone. The fact that the park is still on track is due to a combination of Iain’s manic energy and vision and the sheer graft put in by his crew of workers. Starting the build in mid-winter and almost immediately having to flip the park design around due to drainage was just the beginning…
“We dug the drainage in, cut the trench about halfway out and we were in the ground up to our chests. So that wasn’t working and we ended up flipping the park around. We had to figure out how to work the drainage, and the only option was putting a path in and having the drainage across from the park. The machine guy was a nightmare, on top of that he was expensive, so we ended up just getting rid of him and doing it ourselves. Then, as it was mid winter, the weather was just a fucking nightmare. It was a bad start, we had issues to overcome.”
The first round of lockdown put the build on hold for nine weeks, just as the weather started looking up and a pump had been hired to alleviate the graft of hand stacking concrete; then, the return to site was marked by two large scale setbacks.
“When COVID appeared and lockdown happened we had to ship everything off, but not everything got shipped off because the hire company made a mistake and so the digger got left on site for six weeks. After that we’re coming back from lockdown, I’d arranged for stuff to be ready to go on a Monday, and on the Saturday before that people broke in and stole the digger.
That set us back but we got going again, and three weeks later I went home for my birthday - we’ve been building my 46th concrete park for my 46th birthday - for a three day weekend. I wasn’t planning on doing anything on the Monday, I got up at about 1pm and had about 27 mixed calls. I phoned the boys to see what was going on, and the container had been broken into and all the tools taken. So just as we were getting back into the swing of things we got put back again - no tools, all of us lost money, people didn’t come back to site because there were no tools to do the work with, it was really stressful.
The park’s been a slog and I wish I’d had more time to skate, but we’re here now with it done, we’ve all been paid, we’ve built an amazing park and apart from the robbery it’s been great being down here...like with Inverness, sometimes I think the more adversity there is during a build the better the park comes out. It’s like skateboarding itself, if it was too easy it wouldn’t be worth it. You’ve got to earn it…”
I wonder if that makes Horsforth Skatepark the blues in concrete form. I’ve had a couple of drinks by this point, but luckily Youngo catches my drift.
“Aye, it’s like good music; some middle class or aristocratic prick who’s never had any toughness in his life, he’s never been beaten up or bullied or dealt with shit, the music they’re going to make will be shit. You’ve got to have been through the wringer...Kurt Cobain, Keith Richards, Lemmy. Maybe that’s why this park is so good, because it’s been so shit for me that my only sanctuary and solace is coming up with ideas for the park.”
James Soutar takes to the most dangerous board in the park and dodges bags of gravel for this backside grind on the first pour of the park. Ph: Jono Coote
The monumental levels of graft put in by the crew can be attested to by the fact that, after all these setbacks, the park is now standing proud;
“To start off with it was me, James Soutar, Slim and Mersey Grit Chris. Then Chris left, but we had Joe Howard come in just as the weather was getting good and Aaron Wilmot too. After lockdown when we finally got going again, my good friend Craig Rothney came on board to help as we had no one for the pump. Craig’s been a godsend, he’s taken a lot of the weight off and led the build when I was almost ready to give up. Avid joined us as a labourer and a pole tool aficionado, then James broke his wrist and Joe had to leave for his new job. Yet again I’m sitting halfway through the job with just me to do the concreting, thinking ‘this isn’t looking very good.’
Slim, Joe Howard and Avid birthing the snake.
Luckily I had some friends from abroad, my friend Simo from Finland came over, then Hem... who else? Oh then I forced Aaron back, James recovered and came back...Ian too, Ian Blackburn was a fucking godsend. He was smashing it concreting within days, and his joinery was really good too. Josh Sutton, he’s been a massive, massive help - I wish I’d got him in before. Having Stu Christie down has been great.”
Stu Christie back smiths before the storm clouds roll in and the session goes full otter's pocket. Ph: Jono Coote
With a revolving cast predicated on the fact that, first and foremost, they all actually skate, the park takes influence from a number of parks across the UK. The kidney pool - a rare sight in a UK skatepark - is a mirror image of the pool at Huyton, one of Concreate’s builds in Liverpool, which was itself partially based on the Simparch Bowl;
“I really liked the wooden one that was at Ramp City in Blackpool - Huyton’s kind of modelled on that, but beefed up because I thought the shallow end was a bit small. It’s a funny one with pools, because if you haven’t skated them...I mean I’ve skated backyard pools, but they’ve all been fucking brutal! And I’ve seen footage of ones that look like they have a nice transition. I’d say the Antwerp one is the best representation of a proper pool in Europe. Hereford is good too, still kind of weird but the badly done surface actually kind of works for it and the sausage coping on it is sick. Anyway, inspiration…it’s actually quite funny; I’m assuming this, I’m not 100%, but I think it was the Middle Aged Shred guys in the original user group and they were pretty insistent on the snake run and kidney. We’d just built Huyton and those guys wanted to skate it, but it’s part of a youth centre and it’s on the other side of the country. So I’m assuming they wanted the kidney because of that, and so we inspired ourselves in a weird, roundabout way.”
The other bowl might be snakier, but the oroubros of inspiration helped define this kidney.
Other semi-recognisable obstacles include the Livi flyout into bank - “I think that this one’s harder than the Livi flyout, but it works the same; just fly at it and go straight up. The higher you go up, the less you travel” - and the Newport wall with hips on either side, “which has ended up skating quite differently from Newport; tonight was the first time I’ve got a solid backside boost out of the first hip, it works with noping there rather than sausage coping. You see Sam Pulley skate Newport and he can get a great boost out of that one, but I can’t.”
Outside of these obvious features, and the sheer scale of the place, one of the first things you notice as you walk around is the amount of non-metal coping; two different profiles of hand poured sausage coping painted in a Leeds blue, copper paint noping on the small quarter at the back, and proper pool coping in the kidney. Over the last few months I’ve had a number of kids telling me they’re intimidated by the thought of skating a concrete lip for the first time, and I mention that I’ve been struggling to explain to them just how good it feels once you get used to it.
“Well what you’re saying to me is almost alien, because I grew up skating Livi; concrete coping was all I knew, until we started building miniramps, which didn’t exist unless skaters built them back then. I’m trying to remember which I skated first...I remember my friend did build a little quarterpipe, so he could do ‘slobby disasters’. Now that was some kind of one footed invert, with his hand on the ground [laughs]...I’m pretty sure the actual term wouldn’t be slobby disaster. He’d try them with these monstrous hip pads on, like a sumo wrestler, it was brilliant. We built this quarter and would just put it against a wall, then I think we went to Livi before we skated another ramp. Concrete coping, it just seemed like it was natural. That was the environment I grew up in, and we wanted to put it in the bowl at Hebden Bridge but there are too many bikers there for that.”
Concrete coping curing under sunny skies.
From here the conversation moves on to dream obstacles (“I’d always thought about building a fullpipe, but at the same time maybe not”), the logistics of pouring over vert transitions, and musings on Iain’s top skateparks and DIY spots - those not immediately obvious in the Horsforth Skatepark build, but undoubtedly a wealth of subconscious inspiration.
“I’ve spent years in America and Canada, skating amazing parks, and I just want skateparks here to be good. Burnaby in Canada, that one’s fucking rad. I came back in 2005 or 2006 and I was thinking, ‘I should be building ramps.’ I was always talked out of it by business advisors, but I shouldn’t have listened. If there’s one lesson in life, it’s if you think an idea will work then don’t let anyone talk you down, don’t listen to the naysayers. I wish I’d been doing this 20 years before.
West Linn, Oregon - I went there and thought ‘this park is incredible, you can just keep going.’ It’s maybe the park they did before Orcas, I’ve never been to Orcas but I think it’s similarly laid out with a bowl in the middle and then loads of pumpy, snake run type things around the outside. That’s a big influence to me, that’s why I always have bits on the platform and try to link things together. I hate flat walls, some skatepark companies love putting them in and pride themselves on how flat their walls are but I don’t really get that myself. Curves are fucking sick.
Livi’s on my list for sure...it’ll be controversial to put down, but Livi in a previous guise. Then Mammoth, Inverness, West Linn, Burnaby.
'Crails not bails' takes on more urgency when the 'bail' option involves possible impalement. Ph: Jono Coote
As for DIY spots, then Burnside, New Bird, Sibbarp’s DIY isn’t it? It was a skatepark, then they DIY’d it, then the DIY became legit through John Magnusson. When I went there they’d just done it, I’d seen footage of Schroeder talking about building it. I think it was either a crowd funded or city funded DIY, where they let them do it because it was legitimised. They're trying to do the same with that Bournbrook DIY, which I've started helping them with, through a friend.
Arches DIY is good, The Spot is an amazing DIY - that has to go in, just as a monument to commitment, motivation and hard graft. I couldn’t believe how much they’d done when I first got there, I can’t grasp some of the pours they’ve done. Mostly by hand, maybe with a couple of mixers. The Meat Taco is about a foot and a half thick! That’d be a tough pour with a truck coming in and spraying it. I think maybe The Spot and Burnside get joint first on the list.
Rat City was really good too! Spotter’s fun, I’ve been to loads in Europe. Mechelen’s really good, Delside...it’s too hard, it’s going to have to be a top ten. Frank’s place, Kobwebs, that’s wild. There’s Rob’s bowl...M32 is really sick, I love the ride on curbs they’ve got there. There’s too many to mention to be honest.”
By this point we’ve lost track completely of how many have been contributed to the top five on either list, so we hedge our bets and add to the skatepark selection, just to be sure; “Whistler, the snake run in Whistler! That’s a massive inspiration. Just endless lines...that’s what it’s all about really isn’t it, there has to be lines. Everything links in and the idea is just to keep going and going.”
Concrete burned zombie finger and the dangers of tailblocks on longboards.
In 1999 the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater video game deliberately or not created a boom in skateboarding. Those kids who enthusiastically bought grompletes, measured up helmets and discovered a mysterious rating known only as 'Abec-9' inadvertently became a generation of golden West Yorkshire skateboarders.
Those new skateboarders would grow into another generation of photographers, filmers, artists and sponsored skaters. One of those lucky few, Harry Meadley put together a renown blog and produced clips which incidentally charted the rising of mid-2000's UK legends.
Tom brown is probably the number one fan of this generation of skateboarders. He talks passionately about this era, it’s as if he wishes he grew up then, this video was a huge prompt for a conversation.
I think it's because this crew was more organic for a Leeds crew, this was a group of skateboarders from all walks of life in the West Yorkshire area coming together. That’s a big deal for any scene, when a group get together independently and carve their own path.
That’s why we’re talking about it, so lets go back to the beginning.
I’m still vague about the age I started skateboarding, 12 or 13 years old I reckon. Exit was the shop in the Corn Exchange I first went in to, that’s where I got my first board. There was a group of Hyde Park locals at the time, and they were known as the ‘Wrecking Crew’. It felt like the more Leeds-based Hyde regulators would frequent Exit.
When I’d go there you’d know that that was an established crew. Sooner rather than later I found Wisdom, it was half a skate shop mixed with a record store at the time. It was an interesting dichotomy between the two. Wisdom was evidently the ‘cooler one to me’ and felt more underground which appealed more to my sensibilities.
There wasn’t necessarily a division it bled over quite well, but there was a set of sensibilities for both shops, which would draw skaters to either one. It was a classic more hash/fresh vibe haha.
That’s how I’d see it not actually being from Leeds haha. I’m from the East Midlands so I wouldn’t know. The output and who skated for whom made it look that way. It obviously wouldn’t be true, everyone would have watched Mouse and loved it, and the same goes for anything from Anti Hero at the time.
But, what I’d say was the obvious division everyone would wear Wisdom t-shirts, skate Wisdom boards and rep it. No one really did that with Exit, it felt with Wisdom it was more identifiable with skateboarding as opposed to Exit which was more public facing, which nothing was wrong with.
With Wisdom only skateboarders knew it existed, that was the division. I ended up doing my work experience there, it was the classic skate kids dream.
So was mine! Twentyfour in Derby.
Wisdom had relocated on Commercial Street, which is now a travelling man. They had expanded and started looking outwards to the public, which was cool. They all quickly bought me into the established Leeds scene.
I worked with Si Ashton and Lee Rozee, Dave Wynne and Lecky we’re running it at that time. They were all the people very much in place to train me, as all skateboarders should be trained, in the codes of conduct and all various stuff. After my two weeks they kept me on as a Saturday boy.
I think at that time I was the only younger person working there, saying that Si was 21 and I was 15.
Is this how your 'crew' started to develop?
That was my route in to know everyone. Mike Wright was starting to come into Leeds from Hebden Bridge and was already blowing minds. The Ilkley lot would come through too, that was Jason Brown, Tom Harrison and Rory Martinez we were all the same age give or take a year. Then we had Joe Lynskey from Morley, and at the time there was quite a few other people too. Miller was a hot skater, maybe James Miller was his full name?
Possibly because of the new shop there was more presence whether it was the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater impact or not. I’m not too sure what our generation was all about.
The whole generation was there and your age says that on paper you were the THPS kids but did you find skateboarding through the game or through other avenues?
I didn’t have the game, until after I was already skating. As for the others it wasn’t their main influence either weirdly. I can’t put my finger on it about the influences; it was still at that point where it was unpopular in 2002. Especially when I started working at Wisdom.
You’d already been skating for a while by this point, could you explain a little bit about the grasp of skateboarding culturally at the time?
Yeah I’d been doing it for two or three years, but it all started in 2002. The Nu-Metal mosher sub-culture! By virtue of having a skateboard you were tied into them, like the moshers and whoever hung out outside the Corn Exchange. There were very little cool points to draw anyone into skateboarding; in an odd way there was less people skating but the people who were had to be dedicated. You got so much shit for it!
Are you saying skating wasn’t just physically hard, as it still is, but to some degree also peer pressure?
Yes, I'd say there were very few people who’d stick at it for more than 2 or 3 years from the peak ages of 11-16 years old. They just gave it up, for various reasons probably but mostly social pressure. Sk8er Boi came out around then too, you'd hear pissed men singing it at you on the regs. I don’t know, our generation was amongst the last when skateboarding was still a social outlier it was not an accepted thing to be doing.
You found yourselves as the outliers from these unique areas across West Yorkshire. Mike from Hebden, Lynners’s from Morley and the lkley crew but you’re actually from 'Leeds' though?
Yeah I’m from Harehills, there were other skaters in Harehills too, and they just wouldn’t leave haha.
Once I was at Wisdom the network branched out. It became the rule meet at 12 on a Sunday then start a skate at Leeds University. Skating street at the time was the only thing we did. I don’t remember skating Hyde that often, in it’s the black plastic ramp time. You’d skate there bit. Classically as younger skater, you might be at the park but your not part of the crew.
The wreckers, they had a fearsome reputation haha. It’s funny to think about, the difference in years from 15-16 to 18-22, they were are all nice but you weren’t immediately in the ‘scene’.
The circle still exists, the younger crews don’t go to the park, and they come to Welcome and go street skating. Everywhere is a spot when you start off.
The massive advantage for the time was that the editor of Sidewalk Magazine lived in Wakefield, it was not a small part for greater exposure in the North. The better skaters were definitely receiving attention. It didn’t take any time for Mike, Lynskey and Harrison to pop up in the mag.
You can definitely see that especially as you watch through (Mushy).
Considering the timeline this is the crew that would later be the lineup of the classic Baghead Flats video. So you’ve got the younger group here, so at what point did you get the camera?
Weirdly loads of people at the time had some form of camera, but for us Jason Brown had the first and he filmed everything!
I got this weird little digital video camera with a flip screen filming super low quality files, I’d do odd clips but it wasn’t good enough for an actual video. At some point I had tonnes of files. Basically my thought was ‘what can i do with these clips?’ they’d just be stuck on my computer and I was conscious that I was skating with people who were getting or were very good.
This was all pre-YouTube and uploading servers, that’s when I set up the original Don’t Mess With Yorkshire website on Angelfire, a free website builder. That’s how it all began; it was a cluster of clips that I couldn’t put into a video. It became a relatively unofficial extension of Wisdom.
I blagged to get money for a better camera, I got a Sony 950 which was not as good as a VX1000. If I had any sense I would have saved for a VX, I fucked up! People advised me, if I did the clips on a better camera they could go into actual videos and potentially film stuff monetarily. Down the line I could have contributed with Mikey’s video parts, everyone wanted VX footage and rightly so.
I quickly learnt the politics of skate video making, I remember coming up against it very quickly. I’m bad for it, most of the footage is poached. You can literally see the filmers!
You can tell it looks like you had second but probably third angles.
Totally! I was poaching Neil Chester and Dan Maggee, they’d tell me the rules and taught me about poaching and not posting potential footage, in the nicest way possible too. I was so clearly bad for it, this goes to show why my footage never got put out anywhere. Watching it back now, the clips clearly weren’t good enough for the time.
Half the stuff was things that could go into a sponsor video parts or I'd just Jonny and Moggins stuff to Zorlac. Then the guy running UKVM at the time world ask for stuff.
I seriously don’t remember the UKVM?
It was a guy, it’s a blur, and he came out of nowhere trying to do 411 in the UK. (Editors Note: Jon Drever and later Toby Batchelor put together the UKVM)
Well, he was enthusiastic and nice; he filmed most of it himself. Some of it was going off, I intended to make a video but, the guys were blowing up and filming for bigger parts for companies, quite rightly they were going elsewhere.
'I've had this since I was 16. It still doesn't fit, it's rudeboy as fuck.'
Wakefield’s Liam Sproat is in the video too, was he filming for the Unabomber video?
Yeah Liam was filming for the new bomber video that eventually became UrbaneMob, Harrison was out with the Harmony and Mike at first was Vans. This is all a nice period for everyone; they were picking up sponsors and developing. All of them were probably getting First Lights in Sidewalk and they were still pretty young in the industry too.
People definitely hadn’t seen them at their full potential at this point. Did there come a point where the footage you were filming was getting one-upped the next day?
Totally, yeah haha
At that age it’s the perfect time where you film something and then a year later they’re three times as good. You end up sat on old footage that's not worth posting.
Big time, I think other things just got in the way of filming too. I started putting together clips when The Works opened but lots happened in a two-year period basically. In 2004 (the majority of when I was filming) the concrete version of Hyde opened and then that same Winter the Works opened.
We went from one bad, well I don’t know the old Hyde had its own qualities, but it went from everyone skating street all the time, to then skating Hyde all the time and then skating the Works all the time. It all changed quite rapidly!
For example I have tonnes of street footage from the Summer of 2004 and then I’ve got hours of footage filmed at The Works in the Winter of 2004 into early 2005. It really shifted really dramatically. I did the website for The Works and then I filmed all the footage in The Works. They were paying me which was good but that became more time consuming compared to continuing to film street stuff, so yeah all the street footage never really got used.
Did that shift from the personal to the professional maybe make you less interested in filming personal stuff?
How do I put this, I think I knew what my place was by that point?
I knew that most people that had been filming in terms of street footage needed to be filmed on VX. That was the attitude; also I didn’t drive either. I would still go skating but if someone else was driving and they were filming I felt you know, I was getting slightly older and slightly wiser. You know it doesn’t make sense for me to come and film if this is what is happening.
So you didn’t have the early 2000’s filmer starter pack?
I definitely didn’t have the money to be a proper skate videographer, that’s the truth and then what I had in terms of the camera was only enough for doing little edits for the Works. For me everything was actually sort of means to making some sort of money, which you know was a necessity really.
There is so much that happened at once I was also writing for Sidewalk and that made skate politics more evident.
I guess there is that age where you start seeing things for how they are a bit more and you start seeing internal structures. You have the choice whether you want to play the game or whether it isn’t for you as well.
That happened once I got into art school and started getting interested in that stuff. I sort of remember having to properly think it through and deciding. I knew I needed to concentrate on being fully in the skate industry or not basically. That's how I remember thinking about it because I was either 'I need to try and film way more and get more involved', or just not bother and try the art stuff out. I just had to enjoy skateboarding again and by 18 I was jaded as fuck basically.
That’s really gnarly, you were young in a position from the age of 15 working in a skate shop, to 18 you already had a job filming for a skate park and you were writing for a skate mag. That’s the work that people would start doing 18 onwards.
Exactly, I think I was too young. I was exposed too much too early by the point of being 18. I’d not burned any bridges, not that I had any, and I didn’t have any grudges. I hadn’t had any particularly bad experiences, if anything I had only amazing encouragement and support from people. I think I could too easily see the path in front of me.
As in you knew ‘maybe I’m going to write a bit and then work for another magazine’ and ‘then go on a few trips every other month or so and maybe then film a skate comp’ and you’ll have all the fun bits of it and then you will have the typical day to day write, edit, write, edit and you knew that already?
Yep and I also saw all the internet stuff starting to kick off. YouTube and all that stuff was going to have a massive impact especially on the skate mags and people were starting to begin to scramble for internet attention.
There was all that going on and I mean with me, Don’t Mess With Yorkshire, Jesus Christ, that website was so fucking popular. At the time I didn’t really have anything or there wasn’t that much to compare it to, but thousands of people were visiting that website. In the years after so many people I would meet, who at the time were 12-13 years old, that website was such a big deal for them. There was maybe 30 video clips of single tricks in total haha.
Lets discuss the (Mushy) video itself, was there any deliberate editing choices with the three songs?
There was a certain degree of categorisation, but I think it’s also just what felt like a nice flow for things. I guess I have tried to edit it like i would have edited it at that time.
That has been an interesting thing to consider, I was trying to remember what sort of skate video ideology that I was being indoctrinated to at that time. One thing that came back was this having no filler footage; it used to be a thing that people focused on, just only skateboarding and nothing else.
I can certainly tell that, there’s no B-Roll or for lack of a better term ‘dicking around’.
This was mainly a decision of convenience for me as all I really have are the tricks. There are odd bits of non-skating footage but not really. It’s all I really had to work with to edit, so I thought it would be nice just to make it as skate heavy as possible.
At the point when I thought it was actually going to be a skate video I was going to call it ‘Bangers & Mash’ at the time. I always had it that Tom Harrison had the first part and Mike Wright the last. At least I sort of knew that was the start and the ending!
We had done two Barcelona trips I had been on, the second which is all footage in that first section was with the Ilkley and the Sheffield lot, I was conscious that there was Barca footage from the same trip which had Jason Brown and Harrison on as well as Johnny McNair and Moggins in. That felt like a nice flow, especially since the song used on the edit I had used from the time of the original edit.
It wall about the style blend through these styles of skating so that was the first section and then I thought I needed to do a semi-WUG section like a Wakefiled Underground Carpet World manny section.
As for the rest, it's an ode to the Herald days ending with a crazy amount of Mikey footage.
This project is really cool there's been true constraints on all of it . In what's a negative time for people you've managed to find something positive, especially when the work revolves around some negative memories too.
There's that thing everyone has 'one day I'm going to finally do this' and for me I very much hit a point where I went to art school and said to myself 'I am going to take this art stuff seriously'. In any creative output that was how I channeled everything and I went back to skating just for the sake of enjoying skateboarding and I stopped filming completely, I stopped doing anything 'industry' but it always hung over me. I never used this footage and I never made the skate video I wanted to make.
Was this some sort of unfinished business then?
It's been how many years you know, 14 or 15 years? It's always sort of been there, the intention to do it. It feels nice to put this footage out, it's like its a weight off my chest, this hard drive, it is a hard drive I have been trying to get access to for ages and it has been this object I have carried around with me like a cross. It took around £80 and 3 adaptors for me to finally get access to it and a government based lockdown to make me bother making the edit.
It can be pretty hard maintaining a 20 year relationship with anyone, let alone with a skateboarding company that has thousands of other partners including team riders from across of the world. Clearly it has worked with Danny Wainwright and Vans as they celebrate their 20 year anniversary with the Danny Wainwright Chukka Pro.
Now Danny is sat on the train in Barcelona trying to explain his relationship with not only Vans but with his own video footage. The results below make up commentary on 411, Fifty Fifty's 'Jus Foolin'' and the beloved 'Day in the City 2' as well as some shoe talk.
Read the interview, watch the footage and send hate mail via my Instagram.
Over the past twenty years with Vans and you've been directly involved with three of your own pro shoes. How have you managed that?
My first shoe was back in 1993, it was definitely a sign of the era. At the time (and still now to be honest) I was into running trainers, the super high tech stuff so in the design process I kept on trying to get it slimmer and less "90s chunk" but it didn't turn out that way haha but still being someone from the UK with a Pro shoe was a huge deal at the time. It still kind of is really.
Then the SUMS came out, that was my second pro shoe for VANS. I didn't have my name on that shoe though, but that's a whole different story haha.
Now we have the Chukka Pro, it's everything I like about the original Chukka but with the new Pop Cush Insole, a corduroy and pig suede upper and for the foxing tape I stripped it back and added the checkerboard patch to keep things interesting. I'm hyped on it, I feel like it's definitely my shoe especially when i've been so involved with the design process and it skates well too, which is the point isn't it? Hopefully other people will be into it too.
You've been with Vans for this long but has there been a shoe that has stood out recently?
They're doing a great job at the moment, the product just keeps on getting better. I was a big fan of the AVE, it was something so different from what we've done before, I remember seeing the artwork wondering if it would work, you know? As soon as I saw it on and had in hand I was stoked. It skates super well straight out the box and it lasts. I'm sitting on a few pairs for sure.
I'd be remiss to not ask you about the lockdown in Barcelona, how has it been over there?
Oh it's not too weird, if anything this is probably how Barcelona should be. There's no tourists obviously which is bad for some businesses but everything feels a little more relaxed, even if there is a pandemic.
Over those years you also rode for Powell, were you treated as the typical 'UK/Euro' guy on the team?
I'll lean a little more into the yes side, it was more on the graphics though. Powell sorted me out for a longtime so I'm not talking too much smack on them but my graphics would always hark back to being English/British. Heraldry, shields and lions which were so cheesy. The flags and that Wainwright Manor stuff was horrendous. I was born in '75 and the English flag was used by skinheads, I mean it still is, I didn't want that on my board. I'm not flying that flag.
How did the filming for the first Powell video?
It was a great time I flew out to San Jose to meet up with Steve Caballero. We literally would be skating and filming each other all day but also proper 'Dad-Camming' it, eat and repeat. I didn't really know how to film a proper video part or even how important it truly was though, Cab schooled me for sure.
He was self-editing and editing me as we were out skating. I'd be getting lines and he'd tell me what footage I already had haha! 'How about you do a Heelfiip instead of the Kickflip','You've already done that on something harder' that kind of stuff. I don't have that many tricks haha.
The whole thing was the first video part I had to work for which wasn't for Fifty-Fifty. When I was younger if tricks didn't come easy I didn't want to work for them. I obviously didn't understand but if Steve Cab is telling you how it is and that you needed to get clips, then you're going to be like 'Okay!'.
I filmed my 411 Profile with Anthony Claravall over a month and a half. When I was in the states I'd always hang out with him so when he'd come over to Bristol it would be the same.
The poor guy, he was straight edge, he didn't drink or smoke and at that time I'd smoke a lot of weed too which I'm embarrassed to say. Anthony would have to stay on the sofa whilst me and 5 other dudes were blazing bongs all night. Poor dude, we laugh about it nowadays.
The 411 part was something I really filmed for. I put myself out there with this.
I'm stoked on the Little Lloyds footage, that was the first time I did Backtail Bigspin out and Backtail Backside Flip out. I'd never done those kind of tricks really, that's where having a filmer like Anthony involved is so important, he knew what you could do and gently push you to do better and it worked out.
Damn there's a lot of Kickflips and Treflips in this too.
Would Cab be down for all that repetition?
Haha no way, Cab would not be happy with that.
Did you feel like the 411 part helped push your skateboarding career?
Well that was never really on my mind but it got a good reception. I remember there being a demo or something at Lloyd's and Jamie Thomas came over and said it was 'Refreshing' and that he was stoked on the 'different types of and different skateboarding' I had put out.
I didn't think it was that different. But it's quite nice that people came up and said stuff, you know what I mean?
Did you have that in mind when putting together your part? Was there anyone you were watching at the time?
No, I can't remember. Seriously I've never really been into watching skate videos. You know? I mean, I have 5050 as well. We would sell all the new shit and new videos will come in. So I've watched them in the store. Anything new would be looped on in the store and you don't really pay much attention to them.
I'm not about to go home and put the fucking skating on you need an escape sometimes. The sort of goes with mags. Rarely I'll flick through one and then just put it down and never pick it up again. It's pretty weird.
What is it about Bristol that it as a city produces great skateboarders?
That's a tough question. I don't think it's just skateboarders, it seems to be everything. There's musicians and a sound: Portishead; Massive Attack; Roni Size; Tricky that whole Trip-Hop Drum'n'Bass as well as the younger Hip-Hop scene. The same goes for arts, graphic designers, writers even street artists like Banksy too.
I guess Bristol is a city that allows creatives to thrive which includes skateboarders. There's some mystical shit and some powerful energy in Bristol.
Yeah, well, that was two days if I remember rightly. ‘Day in the City’ was two days so we went to Liverpool one day and went to Leeds the other day. At the time we were filming for the fifty-fifty video. I remember we took the best stuff out and kept it for Just Foolin’.
Isn’t it kind of cheesy though?
What part of it?
The music, the concept and the leftovers?
No, this is of it’s time. Random beats, footage from outside of London and you’ve got to take something from it? How about that manual at Mandela Gardens? It does the rounds still and the spot barely gets touched.
Well, a few of us headed up north, Will Ainley, Flynn and Tidy so it became a good excuse for a mission as well as getting involved with the competition.
A bunch of the footage is definitely warm-ups for other sections. The best example is the line at those steps in Everton is it. There's the Fakie Ollie and a Half Cab. So, I did a Half Cab and a Nollie Flip which we kept for the 50 video.
Actually going over it there's the footage at what is now New Bird DIY and we managed to skate that quarter/bank spot in Leeds.
Yeah the spot if a bust now.
You've got to be kidding me right? We skated there for hours, thats a shame. Maybe they shouldn't have built a such a rad skate spot there. The fountain was empty there too.
As for the manual at that garden spot. I'm stoked its still a thing. What else has been done there?
The Tom Harrison gap to Nose Manual.
Wow that is gnarly, that is way better.
Well funnily enough we ended up winning something like 500 quid for the video contest, it's especially funny when you realise it wasn't all the best footage we got.
You racked up a lot of footage for this video.
There's hours, there’s so much stuff we didn't use Me and Tidy Mike filmed that video. Obviously Mike filmed me and I filmed all the other boys because I used to love filming. We had Flynn Trotman, we’d call Flynn the General because he’d be militant ‘You’re doing this and getting that’ / ‘Everybody's got to get five clips today’. So yeah, we had a lot of footage and we had a lot of good shit too.
Stalker was fucking killing it, Will Ainley and Wileman, Zach, just everyone was on one. We got some really good shit and we were all together saying ‘it's gonna be dope’. I told Mike that we shouldn’t edit it and get someone who knows what they’re actually doing. We were still on iMovie which you could still do something good on. So I got Alan Glass to edit it.
Bearing in mind the editing, what's the story behind the black and white transition midway point?
It makes the park in Yate look good I guess, but in truth it's terrible. It was built by some rogue builders. The transition is all over the place and it's hard to skate, instead of being smooth it's wavy. Proper hideous stuff but you've got to earn every trick and concrete parks can be better like that I think.
When you grew up skating proper shit-holes like Dean Lane you just had to deal with what you had and makes the most out of the situation. You've got to learn your way around it, figure out the lines and which part of the coping to come off at. Everything that's built now is so perfect that it's almost kind of boring in some ways.
There's also the black and white tech at an older Macba to talk about.
Oh yeah, ollie up onto the back wheel, hop over, nose manual and nollie flip but the fucking wheels touch down but we won't talk about that. We'll have Wecking Bollocks on my case. So, the black and white was probably Alan trying to hide it or something.
The secrets, the dirty secrets of UK skateboarding.
The tricks down London Bridge are still up there with textbook skateboarding and still get talked about. What was the day like? Did you think lets get these two tricks and do one?
Yeah, they still do the rounds don't they?
That was coming to the end of filming for that video. I think we just went to London and we wanted to go to the steps, I basically wanted to try and get something. I didn't even know what I wanted to get but I mean those things are not big. They’re small stairs. I mean doing a tre flip down Lloyds is much harder than London Bridge.
Honestly I think just the way it's filmed. It just looks good on film from that angle above. What I’m trying to say is yeah it’s a 360 flip but it's the filming that makes it. Plus it feels like i’ve not done a 360 flip in fucking years. I used to have them on the regular, it was Kickflip and 360 Flip as the go-to tricks. If there was a gap or something like that, if I could Ollie it then I could Kickflip it. I wish that was the case now, but it definitely isn't haha.
As for the Fakie flip. That was a trick I really had at that time, it just worked. Stoked.
Was the case that if you can do it at Llyod's you can do it anywhere?
Not really, I mean I was everywhere and travelling a whole lot. I was sort of all over. I’d stay in the States all the time, so you’d end up learning on perfect spots.
I think fucking Vaughn Baker's Backside Nollie Flip is probably the best thing done down it to be honest. It just fucking looks amazing and it's a trick that I could never wrap my head around. I only ever did a few of them.
So it looks like we got everything, now we're here have you got any advice?
Don't read the YouTube comments haha.
Good one, thanks.
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Photography by Sam Ashley
Interview by Fraser Doughty
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Skateshops heavily rely on a powerful soundtrack, music is there to resonate with everyone who comes through and now that the physical store is closed under government guidelines I'm missing 8 hours of music a day, so I started getting people from across skateboarding to put together playlists.
Jimmy Wizard is the frontman to Higher Power, a Leeds based post-hardcore band and he tattoos in the underground Hell's Kitchen studio. Much like the rest of the population Jimmy's life is on hold, bands need to tour and tattooist need to tat.
Whilst he's got all this free time we managed to grab him via the internet to discuss album launches, Hell's Kitchen and most importantly his dog.
Scroll meaningfully through the interview and indulge in Jimmy's playlist below.
Are you isolating on a golf course? Do you not fancy, potting holes or teeing off?
I’m not a golfer man, my granddad and I used to go to the driving range when I was a kid. I sucked. I’ve not got the hand eye co-ordination for it. I’m just out walking my dog, Harley.
I’d really like to be good at it, become pro. Golf is all about who can play the least amount of golf.
I did one normal round once. My granddad at the driving range said to me ’You’re ready for the course’ (You are FUCKING ready) haha. I went for one round with his mates and I was thinking ‘this is fucking boring . Literally once you’ve done the first hit and smashed it, the rest of it is putting it in the hole. Which is really fucking hard. Only the easy bits are fun not the hard bit at the end.
That is usable content, perfect intro for a micro interview. It’s already here, this is already not about skateboarding, it’s about golf. Fucking golf, a real topic people want to hear about. Are you by the nature reserve and power station?
I come here a lot and I’ve not seen anyone recently but fuck yeah I’m getting the course for free today! This is the time for a free course.
One time on a tour for Higher Power we made some money, instead of distributing the money between ourselves to pay bills we bought a ridiculous amount of golf balls, we were coming back through Folkestone. Someone was straight up ‘Lets go to the cliffs, buy loads of golf balls and smash them off a cliff and into the sea’. We got golf balls, 120 of them; we ended up bringing them all back to Leeds. We took them to a waterfall and teed them from the top and blasted them out into the water, 120 balls.
How did you go about putting the playlist together and can you explain your choices? Is there a theme throughout? Or is it just ‘these songs bang’?
It was guitar music that wasn’t too heavy, angry or extreme but still rocks, it’s the rock elements with good vibes to it. These are the songs if I’m not feeling listening to hardcore or punk. I just need some distorted guitar, nice choruses and melodies. That’s my jam at the moment, were in a dark time and everything is negative, this will keep you positive, put some nice songs on and keep it rocking. That was my brain.
It’s my brainchild of good guitars and semi-punk.
Is it easy listening for the moshers? The moshers easy listening playlist?
That’s it, Morning Mosh. It’s my go-to lying in and chilling out. It’s travelling music flying or on the train and attempting to chill in-between gigs.
Get this; I listen to so much radio rock. 90’s radio rock, anthems too, that’s my shit and what I’m mainly listening to. They make me feel good and it’s so easy to listen to.
That’s cool, we've talkied in the past about the early 2000s channel hopping from Kerrang to Scuzz and back again, was that an influence within the playlist? Can you describe that too, some people might read this and not understand. So what the fuck is the Kerrang to Scuzz hop?
If you don’t know that you haven’t lived, you well and truly missed out on the glory days of alt-rock and being a mosher. You could literally discover avenged sevenfold, this is kind of good. I’m sort of into it. Pure Kerrang music, you’d sit at home afterschool and go to, Kerrang, then if Nickelback would come on you'd fuck that off and go to Scuzz. Turn Scuzz on and something heavier might happen. Slipknot could come on anything from IOWA probably! If Scuzz wasn’t coming through with the goods you could hit up P-Rock in my area. P-Rock was so good, it had Ska & Punk bands, and they’d even play rancid. That was my first go-to, then Scuzz and after Kerrang.
I’d try MTV2 occasionally for Oasis.
Every now and then I’d try that, Oasis is my guilty pleasure and so was Nelly! Right before I was a mosher, we’d breakdance to Nelly, we’d never heard of Hip-Hop. We didn’t know it existed before breakdancing haha. MTV2 was full of bangers in that era, all my guilty pleasures that I didn’t want anyone to know about were played.
I couldn’t buy CD’s and there was nowhere to stream music. When a CD I wanted came out I would never have pocket money to buy it, I didn’t do chores, I was lazy! Channel hopping was my way of finding music and listening to anything. You’d be so stoked if something you actually like came on the TV.
What an innocent time. If you caught the end of a song on Scuzz you’d miss the song title and lose out. It would have the sickest riffs and you’d have lost your chance.
That’s a classic problem, remember the extreme sports channel? There was a Mountain Bike show and they played the band Strike Anywhere, I thought it was so sick, punk and fast beat. I’d only hear that song there, melodic and fast music with mountain bikes haha. I remember it said the name of the song but I missed the name of the band in the credits. I kept that name of the song for years in my head until I got the Internet and I finally found the song, I discovered the band and waited so long to hear that song again haha.
I had to wait for the Internet to come about and I found Strike Anywhere, thank fuck I could find new music.
The world seemed so big, millions and millions of bands that you were yet to hear, did you feel that way?
I was innocent, I hadn’t seen or heard everything yet. Now I feel like I’ve seen everything in the music world, they’ve rehashed it and I’ve rehashed it too. I want the searching back again, it definitely felt so exciting. You’d find local bands and literally talk to them, and eventually go see them. It was so cool. It was super naïve, I miss that being older, I have everything at my fingertips now.
Where you grew up was there a specific music scene?
I grew up in small town between Milton Keynes and London. London was inaccessible and Aylesbury never really had gigs, the music scene wasn’t really there. Every now and then a Ska or Punk band might come through; there were local metal bands that tried to sound like Metallica though.
There was this one band, The Enigma. Hah. The Enigma had one song, literally one song. They had this crazy line “You’re the only one that gets in my head, you’re another motherfucker that’s better off dead” haha I remember that! Wow, I thought ‘that’s so cool’. They had a T-shirt with that line on the back. As for the rest of their music it was all Metallica covers. That one song was a local hit. There wasn’t much else.
Growing up it was super cool. Every type of band would play with each other, Ska played with punk and with Metal too. The area was so small and all genres had to mix. At some point though bands wanted to sound like AFI and Alkaline Trio, it got big for a bit. Pop-punk bands tried to go darker and everyone was sort of Emo but played Ska and wore eye-liner ha. Obviously it was mashup of things that people had seen in videos and big cities and then attempted to do it themselves.
That’s why I feel lucky growing up in that small town, this is Punk, Ska, Hardcore all getting mixed up. You could be into everything and there was always something going on but it never got big. A tiny scene with very limited opportunity.
That’s what happened when you’re drip fed Genres, something comes from it.
Yep you are drip fed in a small town, with snippets of everything. That’s the difference between my hometown and bigger cities.
Have you ever played in your hometown?
None of my bands have, we always played in Milton-Keynes, which was the spot. I cant believe it, I’ve been thinking to myself, I’d love to play a show in Aylesbury.
Would you consider Leeds as the hometown of Higher Power and even for yourself now?
I’ve been here for 8 years, I feel like this is my hometown and Higher Power is definitely a Leeds-band, its not just where we all live. I forget that I lived anywhere else, when you’ve been in one spot for so long, it becomes your home, that’s Leeds for me.
When I first met you in the shop, I’d see you once then 5/6 months later you’d be back ‘I’ve just been on tour’. I thought what the fuck is the guy on about? On tour? Touring for what. You’re in ‘band’. So is everyone else.
Anyone could be these days for sure, I did the same thing with skateboarding. I was told about Blinky before I met him, ‘Oh a sponsored skater’ I thought to myself haha.
For you at this moment in time how are you working with the band, because you're not travelling or playing? Are you figuring out new ways to promote?
It’s pretty easy to talk about now because we had a group meeting. We’re going to put together a band zine. Louie is going to play guitar and jam, maybe even teach people how to play some of our songs. You have to take advantage of social media even more now. Our income is from touring, all we can do is try different things.
As a band, all we knew was playing shows and hanging out. We have spoken about posting old flyers, making zines, coming up with stories, messaging in questions, there’s tonnes we can do. We’ve recorded a few live sessions acoustically that will be released. I feel like being in a band now is just literally getting in people’s faces, the world moves so fast and things constantly come out. We’re just trying, testing and figuring out what we can do, the only thing is who is actually going to put it all into motion.
It’s a weird time, we’re very lucky to have social media, we can connect with our fans. If we didn’t have Instagram we’d all be watching Scuzz and Kerrang I guess haha.
The same dirty songs over and over again for three months. You haven't technically been on Kerrang, but you've been ‘in it’ through the mag. What about getting a music video on Kerrang?
I keep saying this, Kerrang are always so nice to us, its semi-surreal. They know my name, I have contact with them and they message us, they hype us up and feature us when they can. We did a two-page spread; 10-11 year old me would have never imagined that happening. I keep thinking now that music TV is dead and irrelevant, maybe the equivalent these days is the mag? I'd still want to get a video on Kerrang but it just doesn’t get pushed anymore. If it was a thing still, would I be in the mix? I’ve said to everyone, that’s when you make it, when you are on Kerrang TV haha.
Lets start a petition. Get Highter Power on Kerrang? They surely haven’t put new videos on there for 10 years, Puddle of Mudd, Higher Power then some Korn? The ‘Movies’ comes on then Jimmy Wizard haha. Fountains of Wayne after.
Yo he died bro! Mental, so gutted. End of an era.
Even my mum got into those bands. She went to Leeds last year when we played it. She went for the whole weekend. “I saw that group you used to listen to all the time. The one with the fat guys, ‘Bowling for Soup’.” Mum got into it from me watching the music videos, I never owned the CDs but I never swapped channels on their videos. Even she knew who they were, years later headlining a tent at Leeds Fest hahah.
Drawing it back to the playlist, is there any artists or tracks that are an influence on the band?
Yeah, everything on there is an influence. Goo Goo Dolls are in there even though Higher Power doesn’t sound anything like that. It’s almost kind of punky, commercial rock with a chorus and shit. Stuff like that is so influential, just simple chords played extremely well. Melody and choruses, that’s what I’ve always really liked. I’d say I put them in there because they personally influence me, their early records are legit punk and hardcore but they still make ‘rock’ songs which get played on the radio.
I didn’t put Green Day on there, they are one of those bands which influenced me, they come from Punk and play guitars. They write simple songs that anyone can play, it’s accessible to a point because of the melody, but it’s not pop. Same with Sublime, my mum would like Sublime, but it has its raw elements, the lyrics especially. They’ve produced some weird songs, there’s a track about date rape but it just all very melodic.
I’m into underground stuff too. This music got me into punk and hardcore. Choruses and melodies have always been my thing, I bring that to Higher Power. I love it. I love big choruses. A lot of the shit in there has those things I enjoy. Maybe not Travis, I remembered that song and stuck it on the end.
Travis as an ender? That was extremely surprising.
Fuck, this song is sick I’m putting it in there. It came back to me haha.
The majority is guitar driven stuff that still has melody and chorus. It’s easy listening at the same time. That’s my fetish, choruses.
Is that because of the learnability of a chorus? You’d want people to listen to it on repeat and learn it?
You want something to stick with you in music; I don’t resonate with specific lyrics all the time. I don’t get too deep. As a person who is not outwardly emotional, I don’t listen to songs to feel something in that sense. I want something that makes me feel good and that I can sing along to all day.
The Dog. That’s the most important question to ask. How long have you had Harley for? You two are never apart.
I’ve had Harley for 5 years. I got him when I’d just finished my tattoo apprenticeship; the band I was in had just broke up too. ‘Well I guess, I’m just concentrating on tattooing and not touring. I’m getting a dog.’ Then Higher Power started and the itch started again, luckily my mum can have him when I’m on tour, she's obsessed with him and really loves him. I’m so lucky I can have a dog and continue to live this lifestyle, which I definitely thought was over.
He is my best friend. Harley probably hates me haha because I’m always in his face, I’ve always loved dogs, I wanted one so bad. If you over think it you’ll never get one. Harley was an impulse, whatever my circumstances whatever happens to me I’m keeping him, I’m so thankful to have him there when I get home.
He’s super into eating stones.
Hasn’t he lost a tooth?
He doesn’t do normal dog things, he’s a little weirdo. He chews up rocks and sticks. He doesn’t play with other dogs or play fetch. He just wants to be your mate. In the house it's cucumbers and games of tug of war. We share a cucumber everyday. I’ve only stocked up on cucumbers in the lockdown.
You’ll get hench playing with Harley. He’s heavy and super strong.
You’ve done it, you’ve lifted him up. The dog is the same weight as me, I’m sure of it. I’ll do 10 reps, have a minute break then another 10. This dog and me are getting hench together!
You bought up tattooing, you’ve been doing it for 8 years now?
I started off by drawing flash sheets for fun in London. I’d get tattooed regularly by swapping stuff that I’d acquired, weird stuff tattooists want. When I dabbled with flash I wanted to do a little bit of tattooing too.
When I came to Leeds I was lucky enough to meet everyone at Sacred Electric. I’d just hang out there; I didn’t know anyone in Leeds. So, I just hung out with a guy there and they never kicked me out. I guess they thought I was funny? I just hung out.
I got an apprenticeship through that, it wasn’t planned out at all, I feel very lucky I was in the right place at the right time with people giving me a chance. I’d draw there for a couple of hours, they put me on the desk for a few days and eventually it became an apprenticeship, that was truly amazing of them.
Can we talk about the kitchen? I don’t know how much you can say? Are there Tattoo rules you might be breaking?
There is, that’s why I started Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t like this tattoo culture, that tattooing is the shop. It can be so intimidating going into a shop. Some places can make a cool guy atmosphere; I’m not into that. It’s been like that for a long time but I just don’t want to work in that environment. I don’t like that aspect; I’m not in it for the money so much or the status. I could work at Sacred; in the tat world it’s very respected. I just don’t care too much about that world. I tried guest spots but I do it in a sense it will be provocative. Its anti-establishment, I’m against establishments, that my personality. For me Tattooing can feel too established, too safe and too ‘normal’, it‘s supposed to be weird. People will say, ‘we're tattooists, we're outlaws, we're bikers, there’s no rules’, but when you're in it, there are so many rules and there is a hierarchy. If you're in with this person you are cool, it can get very Instagram based too, its not something I’m interested in.
I want to tattoo my friends and people that know…it’s a classic, if you know…you know. I liked tattooing you (Sam) and your brother you came and hanged. It’s not so much a service, when you work in a shop it’s a service industry and I don’t associate that with being creative at all. Yeah, you have to charge people to pay rent and eat, I’m not trying to make money off it and be super successful, I see it as being creative. If people want to hang and let me do my thing, that’s the ultimate bonus, isn’t it? I just don’t want to be servicing people or working for someone else. I don’t want it to be my job or be part of that industry, if you want to come through then do it, if you don’t its fine.
I think when I first got tattooed, stoked, we hung out and chatted it felt nice to be comfortable.
I don’t view the tattoo as a product and you or anyone as ‘the consumer’, I don’t want that from tattooing. I don’t want fame, Instgram fame even, and I don’t want to climb the social ladder. Hell’s Kitchen was to remove myself from one side of tattooing. I began to think there was only one way of tattooing, I literally figured this out. Later, ‘You can do this anywhere? I can do this at home?’ I’ll tattoo my friends.
Hell’s Kitchen is kind of a joke; people would post it as if it were serious.
Was it organic like the band? Two of you started Higher Power as a project and it built up.
That’s why it’s easy for me. I feel like I’m lucky, I don’t think I put too much effort into anything. I’m not one of those people that tries super hard all the time, I’m very lazy, I’ll admit that. But everything I do takes off. If I thought too hard maybe it wouldn’t.
It’s authentic though, everyone can tell in the creative world. Art, music and skateboarding, you can always tell if its too forced.
That’s spot on, hopefully that’s why people are into the things I do. I do what feels good. If I don’t feel like tattooing I wont, I don’t have to. If I just want to make music all week I’m not tied to appointments or a shop. I’m not forcing anything anymore. I’m not obligated as a tattooist. In the Summer I want to skate all day and walk Harley and I can eat, then tat in the evening. In a shop you can’t do that! You’ll tattoo all day when you’d rather not be sometimes. It’s a luxury of freedom. That’s what feels right to me, that’s what I want, freedom to do whatever and not force anything.
Hence, you put Travis at the end of pop/punk playlist?
I might have the worst taste in music. I didn’t put anything in too heavy, like I said I’m vibing on positive music during a negative time. Here are some cheesy songs to keep me going.
If you Google Higher Power, different magazines and reviewers (even Wikipedia) have assigned Higher Power to a subgenre, Is there a sub genre you subscribe too?
People say we're Hardcore a lot, I’d say ultimately that we're trying to keep the innocence of just playing music. It can be alternative music, a bit of punk, hardcore, dabbling with Smashing Pumpkins, even fucking Oasis. I’d say its just alternative music. That’s it for me, if I had to I’d label it ‘an alternative band’ we come from hardcore but that wasn’t the goal.
You understand your roots though?
Yeah, you just play music for the sake of it. An alt-rock band. We’re freaks, its freak music. Slipknot has the ‘Maggots’. I keep saying where are the ‘Freaks’? Anyone can listen to it, as long as your weird and enjoying being a freak, lets get down with some music, who cares?
Words by Fraser Doughty & Sam Hutchinson
Photography by Sam Hutchinson